News In Brief

The Philippine Army said about 100 communist rebels fired on an Army patrol camp on Panay Island yesterday, and the region's military commander called it a violation of the six-day-old cease-fire. Col. Benigno Casio said 19 soldiers in the camp returned fire and the rebels withdrew. There were no reports of casualties. The Cabinet, meanwhile, decided unanimously it would be against national interests for ousted President Ferdinand Marcos to return from Hawaiian exile for the funeral of his sister, who passed on Sunday. A radio station broadcast a tape this weekend in which Mr. Marcos said he hoped to return for the Christmas holidays.

Gorbachev: less hoopla may help reunite families

US Sen. Gary Hart said Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev told him yesterday that ``reduction of propaganda'' from Washington on human rights issues would go a long way toward resolving family reunification cases. The Colorado Democrat said Mr. Gorbachev was responding to urging by Mr. Hart that the Kremlin free Soviets involved in a dozen divided-family cases. The two also discussed arms control issues and economic affairs, Hart told reporters after the 3-hour, 20-minute Kremlin meeting.

3 war-era Viet officials said to be ready to resign

Vietnamese Communist Party leader Truong Chinh and two other aging officials who guided the party through decades of war and revolution will resign at the Sixth Party Congress that opened yesterday, Vietnamese and foreign diplomatic sources said. There was no official confirmation, but one Vietnamese official closely involved in the congress said of the expected changes: ``It is definite.'' The official and the sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

The two others said Premier Pham Van Dong and Le Duc Tho were ready to resign. The resignations could lead to the ascendancy of party officials who have been identified with economic reform.

Chemical and Texas bank plan $75 billion merger

Chemical New York Corporation, the nation's sixth-largest bank holding company, has agreed to merge with Texas Commerce Bancshares Inc. in a deal worth more than $1.1 billion, the banks said yesterday. It would be one of the largest interstate banking mergers in US history, creating a holding company with assets of $75 billion. The Houston-based Texas Commerce Bancshares is considered the strongest bank in the state, but its recent performance has suffered because of heavy loan losses and nonperforming assets.

Tribespeople run amok in Pakistan; 57 killed

Pathan tribespeople angered by police drug and weapons raids in their neighborhoods rampaged in the streets and attacked other ethnic groups, witnesses said. Hospitals reported 57 dead and 400 wounded. Police used clubs, tear gas, and gunfire to disperse the rioters Sunday, according to witnesses. The Pathans, seminomadic tribespeople from northwest Pakistan famous for their fierce resistance to British colonialism, control a significant portion of drug smuggling and arms running in Pakistan.

Ex-justice chief escapes car bombing in France

Former French Justice Minister Alain Peyrefitte escaped a car bombing outside his home yesterday, but the blast killed a mechanic, police said. A woman telephone caller claimed responsibility in the name of Action Directe, the same leftist group that killed Renault chairman Georges Besse last month.

Fundamentalist families win $50,000 in school suit

A federal judge yesterday awarded seven fundamentalist families more than $50,000 in damages for having to send their children to Christian schools to avoid public school textbooks that offended their religious beliefs. US District Judge Thomas Hull delivered his ruling after a hearing on how much the families were due in the case they won in October. Judge Hull's ruling requires the families' school board to pay money for lunches, mileage to and from the Christian schools, and wages lost when the parents had to attend legal proceedings.

US plant production rose 0.6% last month after sag

Production at US factories, mines, and utilities climbed 0.6 percent in November, the largest increase in seven months, the government reported yesterday. The Federal Reserve Board said that the November advance followed three months of decidedly weak performance. But even with the increase last month, industrial output was just 0.8 percent higher than it was a year ago, emphasizing the battering domestic manufacturers have taken from foreign competition.

Round-the world craft looks OK on nonstop run

The experimental Voyager aircraft, its wings shortened at least two feet by a takeoff mishap, soared over the Pacific south of Hawaii yesterday en route around the world on a single tank of fuel. Voyager lost as much as three feet from its 111-foot wingspan during takeoff Sunday when its fuel-laden wingsbent downward and the tips scraped on the runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California, designer Burt Rutan said.

The aircraft will probably lose more of its wings during the 10-day, 27,000-mile odyssey, but Mr. Rutan said Sunday he had no concerns about its structure as it headed southwest across the Pacific toward Australia.

Iran-contra update. US gave aid to Iraq, too

The Central Intelligence Agency secretly gave Iraq detailed information about Iranian defenses even while Tehran was purchasing American weapons, two Reagan administration officials confirmed yesterday. The information included data from sensitive US satellite reconnaissance photography, useful to Iraqi pilots in their bombing raids on Iranian oil terminals and power plants, said one of the officials.

The officials said the rationale for providing satellite data to Iraq was to prevent the smaller country from being overrun by Iran's larger forces. The assistance should be seen ``in the overall context of the United States not wanting Iran to get the upper hand,'' one of them said.

The report of the CIA connection first appeared in yesterday's editions of the Washington Post. The paper said the CIA established a direct top-secret link with Iraq last August.

In related developments yesterday:

The Swiss government froze at least two Swiss bank accounts linked by US investigators to the Iran-contra affair. Officials said the action was a precautionary measure while Swiss officials await a formal request by the US for judicial assistance in the probe. The freeze will remain in effect for one month.

According to intelligence sources cited in the Wall Street Journal, Robert Gates, deputy CIA director, testified in a congressional hearing that Lt. Col. Oliver North told Director William Casey of a link between Iranian arms sales and the contras at a luncheon in early October.

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